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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Insomnia

My feet are chilled. I am engulfed in a sea of meaningless dreams. I am walking on the seabed. I wiggle my toes in the white sand, and I watch ethereal rays of moonlight flicker in the salted water around me. It is so quiet in here. There is only the muted voice of water wavering like slow breaths...inhale...exhale...inhale...exhale. The biting cold is spreading through my whole body, but I don't want to wake up yet.

I look up and watch the moon's distorted reflection on the surface. I feel so light. I hop and float for a minute before I land slowly on the sand again. I am shivering now. Reluctantly, I swing my arms in big strokes and start swimming to the surface. The moon is becoming bigger, and I am teetering on the edge of sleep and awakening. My head breaks the surface, and I wake up.

I keep me eyes closed, and I blindly search for the bed cover that has slipped away. I find it and pull it over my shoulders. I lie there for sometime willing myself to sleep again. I think of that welcoming bottom of the sea , but my mind refuses to wander. I give up, and I gingerly open my eyes. The room is dark, and my watch says 03:00 AM. I get up from the bed, walk to the window, and look outside. It is a silent night. The air is crisp, and the pavement is bathed in the street's golden lights. My mind leaps through continents. I begin to walk the streets of insomnia.

Hassan

I haven't heard a joke translated from Arabic to English smoothly until recently. There is always that technical difficulty accompanying the translation of jokes from one culture to another in order to convey the humor. To hear a joke that has crossed this barrier is quite refreshing. I was delighted to stumble upon the "Hassan" joke when watching one of Omid Djalili's comedy acts. I am not sure exactly where the joke originated from, or why it is called "Hassan", but I used to hear it a lot when I was a kid, and I would bubble with laughter everytime. I've discovered Omid Djalili lately, and I think he is a marvelous comedian. Djalili is originally from Iran, but he is considered one of the top comedians in England. He is also a seasoned actor who appeared in many films. Here is the video:


Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Christmas trees around the world

Ever wonder how Christmas trees look like around the world? Well, wonder no more..


The Capitol, Washington DC


Moscow, Russia


Murano Island in Venice, Italy (Tallest glass tree in the world sculpted by master glass blower, Simone Cenedese)


Prague's Old Town Square, Czech Republic


Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka in Tokyo, Japan


St. Peter's Square, Rome


Galeries Lafayette, Paris (My favorite)


Karwendel mountains, Germany


Lisbon, Portugal (The largest Christmas tree in Europe - over 230 feet tall)


Rockefeller Center, New York


Trafalgar Square, London


The Romer: Frankfurt's City Hall, Germany


Puerta del Sol, Madrid


Red, White, and Blue [on display at an unknown location]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A token of love after 50 years

Weird Asia News reported a very touching love story about a unique couple in China:

Over 50 years ago, Liu, was a 19 years-old boy, fell in love with a 29 year-old widowed mother named Xu. At the time, it was unacceptable and immoral for a young man to love an older woman. To avoid the market gossips, the couple decided to elope and lived in a cave in Jiangjin County in Southern ChongQing area...Liu began, and continue for over 50 years, to hand carve the steps so that his wife could get down the mountain easily.


And the result is (hold your breath, everyone): a 6,000 step path in the mountain for the sake of Xu.

Aw...
Now where are the romantic men when you need them?
Guys, you might want to rethink your Christmas present for your significant other this year!

You can read the rest of the article, look at photos, and watch a related video here. The photo is from Weird Asia News.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Online museum of unknown photographs

I like to flip through old photos, it fills me with a peaceful feeling of reconnection. Even if I don't recognize the people or the places captured, I get a chance to break away from the present and glance through the eyes of the person who snapped the photo into the past.

Skarabej is an interesting website that has an archive of unknown photos. According to the people who established Skarabej:

We found most of the photographs which you can see rejected, forgotten or lost at flea markets, old attics, in basements or junk heaps in Prague(Cz), Zagreb(Cro), Travnik(BiH) and in Subotica(SiCg). Smaller ammount has been given to us as a gift or ceded for scanning by our friends or acquaintances. We are still looking for new photographs...




The photos are taken from Skarabej.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Atonement

When I read the last paragraph of Atonement, I exhaled deeply to clear my mind. It was like waking up from a heavy, troubling dream. The tone of the novel was set the moment I turned the first page, and it started building up till it took hold of my nerves and frayed them. Atonement is truly a masterpiece in its depth and study of the human nature. It is about life and making choices that can affect all the people around us. The author, Ian McEwan, is frighteningly accurate in his analysis of the human spirit. I've never read a novel that portrays the inner twists and turns that inhibit that thoughts of everyone of us so vividly.


The story is about Briony, a privileged young girl with a creative mind and a unique view of the world surrounding her. On a hot summer day, she witnesses a scene between her older sister, Cecila, and the son of their gardener, Robbie, in front of the big fountain that adorns the mansion they live in. Briony does not understand what has passed between the young couple. Fueled by anxiety and misunderstanding, she secretly reads a private letter that Robbie sends to Cecilia. When she comes across the couple in the library and sees something that her innocent mind can not comprehend, her reasoning breaks. Then a terrible crime takes place, and Briony points her accusing finger at Robbie which starts a rippling effect that will destroy the life of two people forever.
A highly recommended and enjoyable book. An unapologetic and seething account of war, love, hope, and atonement. Atonement has been made into a movie that is playing now in the US. I've waited until I finished the book, and now I am very excited to go and see it. Here is the trailer:



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Once

I finally got the chance to see Once. I had to wait for it to come out on DVD because I could not find it in any of the theaters around my house. Simply put, Once is one of the best movies I've watched in a very long time. It is a beautiful movie with very realistic and touching moments. It does not insult the intelligence of viewers like other movies do. It easily engages you in the everyday struggles and hopes of the protagonists. Once is not your type of a Hollywood blockbuster; it is a low-budget, Irish musical that will surely leave a sweet taste in your mouth.

Without disclosing too much details, the movie evolves around the world of two people who randomly meet one night in the streets of Dublin. A guy and a girl (we don't even get to know their names which I found very endearing) bond over music. They guy (Glen Hansel) is a struggling musician who earns his living by fixing carpet cleaners in the morning and singing in the streets in the evenings. The girl (Marketa Irglova) tries to make ends meet by working two jobs to support her mother and baby daughter. Through a lovely encounter, the girl, who likes music and knows how to play piano, agrees to help the guy put his songs into a record. The story goes on from there.

One of the best highlights in the movie is the music. It is true, rugged, and heartfelt. Hansel, the seasoned leader of one of my favorite bands, The Frames, and Irglova did a terrific job singing some of the most inspiring songs I've ever heard.

The movie has a harsh and sad feel about it, specially with the scenes in the dreary streets or the gloomy rooms. I rarely cry when I watch movies, but to my great surprise, I had to fight tears through some of the scenes. It also has its charming and captivating moments that will make you laugh. The Irish accent can be a bit hard to follow; nevertheless, it adds charm to the movie.

Definitely one of the top 10 movies this year. Here is the trailer:



The goodbye letter

A father passing by his son's bedroom, was astonished to see the bed was nicely made, and everything was picked up. Then, he saw an envelope propped up prominently on the pillow. It was addressed, "Dad." With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope and read the letter, with trembling hands:

Dear Dad,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend, Stacy, because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you.

I've been finding real passion with Stacy, and she is so nice, but I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercings, tattoos, her skin-tight motorcycle clothes, and because she is so much older than I am. But it's not only the passion... Dad she's pregnant.
Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a tiny trailer in the woods, and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.
Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone. We'll be growing it for ourselves, and trading it with the other people in the commune, for all the cocaine and ecstasy we want.

In the meantime, we'll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS, so Stacy can get better. She sure deserves it!!

Don't worry Dad, I'm 15, and I know how to take care of myself.

You taught me well. Someday, I'm sure we'll be back to visit, so you can get to know your grandchildren.

Love,

Your son John

P.S. Dad, None of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the report card that's in my center desk drawer. I love you! Call when it is safe for me to come home.

A hilarious e-mail from one of my friends that I wanted to share with everyone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Andrea Bocelli ...magic with no limits

Listening to Andrea Bocelli live is an experience that every self-respecting lover of classical music should go through once in a lifetime at least. I started having goose bumps the minute our group stepped into the huge Honda Center in Anaheim, and I heard his soaring voice booming through the gigantic speakers behind the closed doors. We were late already. When we heard the rising cheers after the end of one of the opera songs, we started running fast. We laughed and almost bumped into each other excitedly trying to make our way to our seats before missing more of the performance. The minute I sat down and looked toward the stage, I became truly and utterly mesmerised. I was lost in the majestic music, the heavenly voice of Andrea, and the gorgeous themes that played on the huge projected screens.
I could hear the catch of breath rising in the arena-like hall every time his voice rose. People applauded, hailed, and stood in reverence for Mr. Bocelli.

Oh Andrea...how can you capture an audience of thousands so effortlessly? How can you send the souls of the crowd soaring into the highest sky? How can you command a stage so powerfully?



This is a video I captured of Andrea Bocelli performing my favorite "Canto della terra" with the amazing Heather Headley. Unfortunately, the quality of video is not good, and my camera decided to play tricks of blurriness; nevertheless, this is a taste of what it was like to be in the presence of Mr. Bocelli.

video

The evil eye

video

Friday, December 14, 2007

For all shirt lovers..

Threadless is a great website that features unique, smart, hilarious, and artistic designs for shirts. The shirts are available for guys and gals in all sizes. Definitely worth checking out. The great thing about this site is that if you create a design, and it gets featured and printed on tees, you get rewarded with money. The site includes blogs of winning designers.

Here are some:

Puppet Ballet by Trocherie Henri-Pierre


Flowers in the Attic by jbyron


Fill Me Up by Jeff Sapulettey


Peace and Hate. Can You Tell The Difference? by Allan Faustino


Watch Your Back by Chow Hon Lam

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Having a stomach of steel

It is disgusting and marvelous at the same time to watch Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild series snacking on a variety of..err..tasty stuff. The popular Discovery Channel series features Grylls demonstrating much-needed surviving skills when lost or faced with dangerous situations. The show is being accused by many of having its episodes staged or settings faked, but I am not going into that.
I want to talk about that part of every episode when Grylls redefines the "edible" term. Always raw and mostly alive: snakes, spiders, bugs, frogs, carcass maggots, scorpions, sheep eyeballs, elephant dung, feces, and zebra meat somehow find their way to Gryll's tough stomach. I always watch in horror and fascination as the camera zooms in on his mouth and he starts chewing, gnawing, or chumping on his latest victim.

The best part comes when he comments on what he eats right after he swallows it. His comments range from pleasantries to giving us a mental vision of how it tastes like:

"Mmm..like big prunes sitting around for weeks..not particularly appetizing." - After eating a maggot.
"Mmm..good meal." - After swallowing a raw snake.
"Tastes like guts and brain." - After eating a crucifix spider.
"God..it is like chewing a gristle full of cold glue."- After eating a dead sheep eye.

(Warning: If you are about to have a meal or you've just eaten one, I advise you to watch these videos later.)
Watch him here munching on a tiger scorpion:



And here where he nibbles on a small tree frog:




Mmmm..tasty!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Favorite Things

I developed my passion for movies when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time. I was 9 years old and very inquisitive about everything around me. I remember how my parents gathered me and my 6 years old brother one evening to watch it. I instantly fell in love with the music, the Austrian nature, and the fun songs. My eyes were glued to the screen following every movement and every spoken word. The film went by in a blink of an eye, and I was left with a childish awe. I became oblivious to everything, and I spent the rest of the day reliving every moment of the film. I imagined myself running on the green hills, singing the silly songs, and playing along with the kids.



Of all the songs in the film, My Favorite Things stayed with me till this day. I smile every time I remember it. Whenever I am stressed out or sad, I hum the corny lyrics to make things light.


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling saaaad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel soooo baaaad

Now FanaticPromotion posted a video on YouTube by Negativeland that butchered the song; nevertheless, it produced a hilarious version of it.



The Sound of Music is based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. There is a very interesting article, The Real Story of the Trapp Family by Joan Gearin, that discusses the fiction and the reality between the original story and the movie.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Favorite Photographers Part# 3:

I had the chance to come across a great photoblog that belongs to Kathleen Connally. A walk through Durham township, Pennsylvania is Kathleen's latest project to document the lively details of her lovely town. In her blog, Kathleen says:

I began this photoblog to visually document the residents, visitors, plants, animals, architecture, landscapes and farm life of Durham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania (where I live), and nearby areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Unless noted, all photos are taken within a ten-mile radius of my home.

What I love about the photos is the dreamy look. When gazing at each photo, you get lost in the colors, expressions, and light. There are also the different faces, the gentle nature, and the cute
animals. You can visit Kathleen's blog here.

Copyright 2007 Kathleen Connally


Copyright 2007 Kathleen Connally


Copyright 2007 Kathleen Connally


Copyright 2007 Kathleen Connally


Monday, December 3, 2007

Guys and purses: yay or nay?

I got into a discussion with one of my friends the other day about men and purses (yes, I know):

Friend: Do you think its ok for a guy to carry a purse?

Me: Err...I guess.

Friend: Well, there are briefcases and laptop bags, which are fine, but what about the small-sized purses?

Me: Yes, I think its totally fine as long as they are not girlish-looking purses. Guys need to carry some small things around sometimes.

We started analyzing how the man-purse should look like, and what is acceptable and what is not. It is definitely becoming a trend nowadays, at least for celebrities. There are some amusing articles about this in The Satchel Pages. We looked up some photos of what is trendy and what is not.

Trendy:


Not-so-trendy:


The question for the guys here is: would you wear a man-purse?

(Photos taken from The Satchel Pages and Yahoo images for demonstration purposes.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Great Commercials: Part # 2

His story through a blink of an eye

Live life, and live it to the fullest. Put your hand on that invisible, aching spot in your heart and forget. Forgive and forget.

This is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (April 1952 - March 9, 1997), a French journalist and editor of Elle magazine. When he was 43 years old, Bauby suffered a massive brain stem stroke that left his mind and left eye as the only functioning parts of his body. After a long comma, Bauby woke up to find himself locked up in a paralyzed body where he can't do anything but grunt and blink his left eyelid. Through that impossible situation, Bauby was able to write a book called The diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was read by a person reciting the alphabets repeatedly. The book became an amazing journey of self-discovery, courage, imagination, love, and humor. Bauby died two days after his book was published.

Scaphandre et le Papillon or The diving Bell and the Butterfly is a movie based on Bauby's memoir book. It is opening today in the United States, and I can't wait to watch it. The movie won best director award in Cannes festival. Here is the trailer:

 

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